Survivor of the Genocide: Joselyn Umubyeyi
Biomedical Engineering Student Class of ‘18
by Liz Kazungu | July 2016
In line with the mission of ensuring student academic success is sharing the stories of the students we serve in OUE. One of those students is Joselyn Umubyeyi a Biomedical Engineering student who transferred to Georgia Tech in Fall 2015. Like many new transfer students, the transition was difficult and after attending transfer preview, she immediately connected with the Center for Academic Success utilizing the Academic Coaching program to set goals, manage her time and develop a study strategy. Through this support, she was able to be recognized on the Dean’s list. This is her story.
Joselyn was born in Kigali, Rwanda just as the tragic genocide had ended. Being from a Hutu father and a Tutsi mother, her family was full of conflicts and hatred. Her father’s family ordered him to kill her mother while she was expectant with Joselyn. As a result, he had to hide her during the genocide. At the age of seven, things got rough when her father passed away. He had been the family’s sole financial support. Her mother worked long hours at menial jobs and struggled to pay for food, clothes, and school fees for her four children.
During primary school, Joselyn’s mother couldn’t afford to pay the school fees. Since her ambition was to get educated no matter how hard her life was, Joselyn never gave up. When she couldn’t attend class, she went to her classmate’s house at night and read her text books and copied her notes to keep up with her class work. On Exam days, she would come to school, but she never saw the test results. The only way she knew that she was promoted to the next grade level was to come the following year and look at the list of students on the classroom door.
After four years of struggling to attend school, she got her first lucky break. The school headmistress’s wife found her crying outside of class and agreed to pay her way through school. Joselyn felt from that moment on, she had hope and opportunity.
Through perseverance and hard work, Joselyn won a scholarship to one of the best science high schools in Rwanda called Groupe Scolaire Saint Andre. she graduated high school in 2012 and was one of the top three students in her class. A second lucky break occurred when Joselyn found an American sponsor who helped her afford Harold Washington College in Chicago. After 2 ½ years she graduated from Harold Washington College with the highest honors (and was the recipient of one of 6 scholarships awarded by the school for ongoing education).
This fall she transferred to Georgia Institute of Technology as a biomedical engineering major. She finds the work load very challenging and time consuming but fascinating. Joselyn is willing to do whatever it takes to have the opportunity to learn. She is proud that in her first semester she made Dean’s List, and she expects to continue to improve academically with the help of resources such as CAS.
Science and mathematics have always been Joselyn’s favorite subjects in school because she enjoys the process of discovery using logic and the laws of science and nature. She is majoring in Biomedical Engineering to help solve health problems using technology. The brutality of the genocide left many Rwandans with amputated limbs. Her goal is to own a company that produces affordable biocompatible prostheses that can be adapted to the dirt roads and rocky hills of countries like Rwanda.
Georgia Tech has helped Joselyn get ready to tackle health problems through problem solving-based classes. She enjoys the challenging academic courses as they propel her to be intellectually curious. She has academically grown in the way of not just assimilating what she is learning, but is also eager to apply the lesson in practical real world problems. Joselyn says:
There is an old saying that states, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” I am a living example of this truism. I always knew education was the key to escape poverty. Fortunately, I have been lucky enough to find people who recognized my hard work and gave me opportunities to succeed. I am keeping my fingers crossed that my future will continue to be lucky. But I know for certain that I will give 100% effort to make that luck happen.